To be one of eight broadcast crews for CBS/Turner throughout the first weekend of March Madness is demanding and calls for coverage of six games in a 48-hour period.
That leaves plenty of opportunity for situations to go viral, such as Verne Lundquist taking a basketball to the head during warmups.
Then there is long-time commentator and former UCLA and St. John’s coach Steve Lavin who made two comments on Xavier players during the Musketeers second-round rout over Florida State.
First Lavin referred to a two-handed dunk by Tyrique Jones as delivered ‘gorilla style’.
The term ‘gorilla slam’ has been coined by announcers since the days of Darryl Dawkins. But the PC slippery sloped has changed, especially after ESPN tennis announcer Doug Adler was fired earlier this year. In an early-round Australian Open match, Adler appeared to say ‘gorilla effect’ after Venus Williams pounced on the second serve of an opponent.
Adler later said that he actually said ‘guerrilla’, but the social media backlash damage had been done. Adler was fired and later sued ESPN, and reportedly suffered a heart attack days later.
Obviously the Williams sisters carry the torch for African-Americans in tennis while black players consist of the majority of basketball. Also never mind that first baseman Dave Kingman was known as ‘Kong’, or that business in Pittsburg, Kansas feature gorilla statues to pay homage to a local university, or that King Kong himself is currently featured at your local mega-plex.
Mild eyebrows were raised when Lavin made the gorilla comment. Then minutes later he made what could be termed Xavier big man Sean O’Mara as a ‘polar bear with a Paul Bunyan/lumberjack physique.’
Research uncovers that Lavin also referred to Wisconsin’s Brian Butch as a polar bear when he broadcasted during the 2007-08 season (between his UCLA and St. John’s tenures).
It is safe to say that the likes of Charles Barkley, Kevin Garnett and Shawn Kemp were not referred to as polar bears in their playing days. So those two references within minutes of each other is an eye-opener.
Unlike journalists, on-air talent do not have the safety net of an editor to cover them. The ground rules have been slowly established over the years, Billy Packer kept his job after referring to Allen Iverson as a ‘tough monkey’, Howard Cosell referred to wide receiver Alvin Garrett as a ‘little monkey’ on Monday Night Football in 1983 – which marked the beginning of the end to Cosell’s career.
With an entire weekend of March Madness TV coverage, this hopefully blows over without repercussions.